The Role of Women in The Church and Pulpit Ministry

The Role of Women in The Church and Pulpit Ministry

I. Introduction

Man and woman are meant to be equal:

1. In creation – Both were created in the image of God and in His likeness and are given the responsibility to be fruitful and multiply, to have dominion over the fish of the sea and …. (Gen 1:26-28).

2. In marriage – Man and woman are equal and interdependent partners in marriage, and they are to be united into `one flesh’ (Gen 2:18, 24).

3. In salvation – `… there is neither … male nor female …’ (Gal 3:28).

II. The Role and Ministry of Women in The Church

1. Women & Ministry in the O.T.:

a. Miriam, sister of Aaron, a prophetess, led the people in praise of the Lord together with `all the women’ (Ex 15:20).

b. God raised woman-prophets and leaders from time to time to lead the people in times of trouble (e.g. Deborah and Huldah – Judges 4:4ff and 2 Kings 22:14).

c. Women were encouraged and given opportunity to serve the Lord in the building of the Tabernacle (Ex 35:25-26) and participated actively in the service of the Temple (1Chro. 25:5-6; 2 Chro. 35:25).

2. Women and Ministry in the Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ:

a. They were allowed to follow Him alongside with men and minister to Him and provide for His material needs (Lk 8:1-3).

b. They were regularly taught by the Lord the truth of God (Lk 10:38-42).

c. They were used as examples of outstanding piety (Mk 12:41-44; 14:3-9).

d. The first witness of resurrection were women despite the fact that Jewish law had little regard for the testimony of women, and it was these women who were charged to tell the story of the empty tomb to the apostles (Mk 16: 1-8; Jn 20:11-18).

e. They were commissioned by the Lord alongside with men., to go into all the world to preach the Gospel and to make disciples of the Lord of all nations (Mk 16:15; Matt 28:19-20; Acts 1:12-14).

3. Women and Ministry in the Life of the Apostolic Church:

a. When the Holy Spirit come, the tongues of fire settled, as Joel had prophesied, upon the men and women (Acts 2:1-4, 17-18) and the Lord added both men and women to His Church in Jerusalem and in Samaria (Acts 5:14; 8:12).

b. Loved in-deed : Tabitha (Dorcas) provided services for the poor in Joppa (Acts 9:36-43), widows of 1 Tim 5:9 lived exemplary lives of concern for others.

c. Worship: The Christian women participated freely in worship, prayer, prophesying (1 Cor 11:5; Acts 21:9) and joined others in bringing a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation (1 Cor 14:26)., others were to receive their words or songs respectfully, submitting themselves to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:19-21).

d. Missionary Services; Fellow Workers: Priscilla (Prisca) (Rm 16:3-5), Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2-3) were addressed by Paul as `fellow workers’, the title is used of men such as Timothy and Titus. In Romans 16, Paul sends greetings to 26 persons, eight are women.

e. Church Officers:

– Women were prophets: the daughters of Philip and women at Corinth were prophetess (Acts 21:9; 1 Cor 11:5).

– Women who served well were enrolled on the welfare roll of the Church (1 Tim 5:3-16).

– Phoebe was a deaconess of the Church in Cenchreae (Rom 16:1-2) and the qualifications for the deaconess are clearly spelled out in 1 Tim 3:11.

f. Leadership: Women shared leadership of the Apostolic Church in various capacities (e.g. missionary work & etc.), they could even be appointed as deaconess of a local church. However, the overall leadership of the church (e.g. Apostleship and Eldership) is restricted to certain men with certain gifts and qualifications, `beyond that, it knows no official gender distinctions within the organisation of the church.’

4. Conclusion:

`We have surveyed the role women in ministry throughout the Bible. Its pattern is clear and uniform from start to finish. In the broad area of ministry, defined as the service of man and God out of love for God, there is no distinction between men and women. In the particular area of authoritative leadership in the religious community, we see a different pattern,. In this area, God has, in each period of history, called out some men to lead and to bear the responsibility. His choosing was never based upon a presumed greater worth or dignity. `God’s calling out of certain men is not sexist in contemporary terms. His division has not been : men/women, but rather certain men/others.’ Therefore, we can very safely say that women are free to participate in all the areas of spiritual ministry in a local church except the office of the Eldership.

III. Women in Pulpit Ministry

1. General Observations:

a. God raised up woman prophets both in OT & NT, and the ministry of a prophet is undoubtedly `to prophesy’, which means `to speak forth the word of God’.

b. Spiritual gift of prophesy is given to some to benefit the whole church (1 Cor 12:7); therefore it must be exercised freely and widely in the church.

c. There are woman missionaries and `fellow workers’ in the apostolic church and the church today, the calling of a missionary is to preach the word of God.

d. God has been pleased to use many great women missionaries and preachers throughout the generations.

e. There are passages in the NT which clearly state that women were engaged in public preaching in the apostolic church. (1 Cor 11:5)

2. Reasons often used against the pulpit ministry of woman in the Church:

a. According to God’s creational order, man is to be the head of woman 1 Cor 11:3), therefore woman must be submissive to the authority of man in the Church.

b. Pulpit is a place of authority. If woman is allowed to preach from the pulpit to a mixed audience, they would be exercising authority over men which is clearly against the teaching of the Bible (1 Cor 14:34; 1 Tim 2:12).

c. According to 1 Cor 14:34; 1 Tim 2:11-15., women are to be silent in the church, they are not allowed to speak and teach men. They are there to learn with submissiveness rather than to speak and to teach.

d. Women are more easily deceived as it was the case in the beginning, therefore they are not fit for teaching men (1 Tim 2:12).

3. What the Bible has actually said about the matter?

a. According to 1 Cor 11:5, immediately after it has just been stated that the head of woman is man, it goes on to mention as a matter of fact that women in Corinthian Church were allowed to `pray and prophesy’ in public provided they kept their head veiled. It is more than obvious that, as far as apostles Paul is concerned, public preaching of the woman does not contradict with the `headship’ of man, as long as they are properly or appropriately attired. To put it otherwise, Paul does not think that the pulpit is a place of authority.

Is the pulpit really a place of authority?

(i) 1 Thess 5:20 warns us not to despise prophesies, and goes on to say in v. 21 that we should `test all things; hold fast what is good and abstain from every form of evil’. In other words, the prophecies are not to be despised, the hearers are to exercise their judgments on what they hear.

(ii) Berians were considered to be more noble for they received the word which Paul preached to them `with all readiness and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.’ (Acts 17:11).

(iii) Priscilla and Aquilla corrected what Apollos had preached wrongly (Acts :24-26).

Messages preached from the pulpit has to be `judged’, `examined’, and sometimes, even `corrected’ by the audience. Who is exercising greater authority?

b. 1 Cor 14:34-37 form part of Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian church concerning the order of their service. 1 Cor 14:26-33 gives us a glimpse of the order of an apostolic church service, which is rather free as compared to our modern day church service order. Everybody was allowed to participate freely with songs, tongues, interpretation of tongues, and revelations. In v 31, Paul encouraged `all’ to prophesy one by one, that `all’ may learn and `all’ may be encouraged. It would be rather strange for Paul, after encouraging `all’ to participate in prophesying (preaching), turned around to tell all the sisters to be silent, and that they were not allowed to speak.

In actual fact, the word for `speak’ in Greek is `laleo’ which means `chattering’, and which is a very different word for `prophesying’ (prophetikos), which means `to speak forth the word of God’. In other words, Paul was prohibiting women in the congregations from chattering during the service. Some may argue that they were not chattering but asking questions; others may even said that they have arguments to make on the message; Paul further the argument by advising them to go home and ask their own husband, and that they were no wiser that the speaker. Therefore, it is the women in the congregation prohibited from talking during the service rather than sisters from preaching.

c. 1 Tim 2:11-15 is talking about the conduct of women in the church in relation to their dresses and manner; it has nothing to do with public preaching of the same. Paul was trying to stop certain domineering women in the church from `bossing around’, they even try to tell the brothers what to preach in their service.

4. Unnecessary confusion and irregularities out of incorrect interpretation of the Scriptures:

If the women are not allowed to preach as some insist, then we will have a situation in the church which is very unsettled and full of confusion.

a. There will be inconsistency and irregularity in God’s doing and His teaching.

(i) Why should He raise up prophetess when He disallow the woman to participate in the ministry of preaching? Why the gift of prophecy should be given to them?

(ii) Why should He send out woman missionaries to do work that He does not allow?

b. Man made rules will have to be stipulated in order to implement the prohibition of woman from preaching ministry:

i. Total or partial prohibition?

ii. If partial, as most people seem to agree, then when, where, how and to who,m can they preach?

iii. How about the woman missionaries on the field? Should they be called back from the field immediately?

iv. Many woman preachers in the past had been greatly used of God, how should we regard them and their work?

v. If women are not allowed to teach men in the church, from the pulpit, would they be allowed to teach men else where? Since the creational order is the basis for the argument against the women preaching.

vi. If women are allowed to teach men verbally, would they be allowed to teach others (including men) by other means, e.g. writings and Radio or TV ?

5. Conclusion:

If the approach the Scriptures with an open mind, without any prejudices, we will be able to see the original meaning much more clearly. We really can’t find any ground for the prohibition of Christian women in pulpit ministry. Therefore, it is our stand that when the women are not given the overall leadership of the church, they can participate freely in all the spiritual ministries with correct attitude and right spirit: for the glory of the Lord and the benefit of `all’.

Huang Ee Yuen